Iran president shuns Nowruz goldfish tradition

  • 21 March 2016
The photo of President Hassan Rouhani with his Haft Seen table Image copyright Twitter/Hassan Rouhani
Image caption No goldfish were harmed in the making of this photo

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani appears to have signalled his support for the rights of goldfish in a tweet wishing his compatriots a happy new year.

Iranians traditionally mark their new-year festival, Nowruz, with a table display known as Haft Seen. A goldfish bowl often features among an array of symbolic items on show, with the fish representing life. But a photo posted on his official Twitter account shows President Rouhani's goldfish bowl is missing its fish, which has been replaced with an orange.

The goldfish bought during Nowruz are traditionally released into the wild on the thirteenth and final day of the festival, which usually results in their death. That's prompted concerns from animal rights activists and bloggers, who in recent years have called for the practice to stop.

The president's decision to go for a fruity - rather than fishy - bowl has been welcomed by many Iranians on social media. "Rouhani, too, has joined the campaign of leaving out goldfish from the Haft Seen table. Good for you!" writes one Twitter user. Some think it shows the president's team is in touch with popular feeling, with one user saying it "indicates that they monitor social networks and react accordingly". But one suggests ditching the goldfish could be political move, writing: "Rouhani wants to gain the votes of liberals in the next poll."

Vice-President Masumeh Ebtekar, who also heads the country's environmental protection organisation, sees even more symbolism in the photo. She points out that the goldfish-turned-orange bowl is practically dry, and should therefore encourage people to conserve water.

Image caption Plastic goldfish replace the real thing on some Haft Seen tables - including one at the BBC

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